Jesus: Lord, Liar, or Lunatic

Since we don’t just die and cease to exist, answering the question, “Who was Jesus?” is one with eternal consequences. The great Christian apologist, professor, and author C. S. Lewis developed the “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” trilemma to get people to think through this issue of Jesus’ identity.

Lewis wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Here’s what C. S. Lewis was basically saying. Logically, we know Jesus was no legend. He really lived. So He was either the Lord, as He claimed to be at His trial and elsewhere, or He was a Liar, claiming that He could give eternal life to people (like Mary and Martha) or a Lunatic, thinking that He was God.

The problem with saying that Jesus wasn’t the Lord leaves you with Him as either a Liar or a Lunatic. If He was a Liar, then don’t list Him as a great moral teacher or role model for all of us, since He deceived people with blatant lies and false hope. If He was a Lunatic, why does none of His teachings and actions exhibit that diagnosis? Even unbelieving historians agree that He was a positive force in the community. Remember that Josephus said, “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous.”

If He wasn’t a Liar or a Lunatic, Jesus must be the Lord, as the Apostle Peter understood when asked by Jesus in Matthew 16:15-17. “‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.’” Later, when Jesus asked the Apostles if they were going to leave Him, Peter went on to confess this in John 6:68-69: “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’”

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